Jeremy Schwer, 41, pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony child molesting.
The crimes occurred after the girl was diagnosed with cancer and her parents started alternating taking care of her at night, court records state.
Deputy Prosecutor Courtney Curtis, who is division chief of the special victims team, said she had argued for Schwer to serve nine years in prison followed by three years on probation. But the girl’s mother, who filed for divorce, wrote a letter asking the court not to send Schwer to prison because she hoped he would help financially support their children.
After doctors found that the girl had a brain tumor in 2013, she spent several months in the hospital and went through a year of chemotherapy.
Schwer was charged in 2015 after his now-estranged wife called the Indiana Department of Child Services. Their daughter, then 6 years old, told her mother that she had touched her father’s private parts, according to court records. The girl later told officials that her father also touched her and had her sit on his “cat tail.”
The girl, now 7, said her father told her not to tell or he would go to jail, court records state. She eventually told her mother it happened every night when she slept with her father.
On Tuesday, Marion Superior Court Magistrate Steven Rubick sentenced Schwer to 12 years of probation, court records state. He also required Schwer to register as a sex offender, continue treatment at a counseling center and vacate the family’s home so his estranged wife and children could move back in.
Curtis said she “completely” disagrees with the sentence Schwer received, but she understands that Rubick was listening to what the girl’s mother was asking for — an ability to provide a life for her children.
Schwer has been out of jail for the past year yet has not paid anything to support his kids, Curtis said. Schwer also had been living in the family home — a home with the little girl’s princess castle built through the Make-A-Wish Foundation — but Rubick ordered him to leave it, court records state.
Schwer’s attorney, John W. Campbell, said Schwer was fired within days of his arrest last year and did not get another job until two weeks ago. Campbell said Schwer “absolutely” plans to provide financially for the family and promised to devote his life to supporting them.
Curtis said it is unfortunate that someone can avoid prison time by having an opportunity to provide for his family, when those who don’t have such an opportunity go to prison.
“This is the most horrific circumstance of a child molest case that I’ve ever seen,” she said.